The Veil or Curtain (Thirusheela) of the Holy Sanctuary
A movable curtain, a veil is provided at the entrance of the Holy Sanctuary (Madhaha). It has an embroidered Cross (signifies Christ) at the centre and sometimes decorated with doves, wheat and wine stalks. The veil signifies the sky, that separates the heaven and the earth (Ex. 36: 16; 40: 3, 21). As the heaven is hidden from the earth, by the sky (Gen. 1: 8), similarly the veil of the Sanctuary is the symbol of hiddenness of God. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy (Ex. 26: 33), said the LORD. The Veil separates sinful man from the Divine God. The curtain is a constant reminder that we sinners cannot enter the Lord’s presence and that our sins are the barriers between God and us. Only those specially called and has taken a vow can enter the Holy Sanctuary, after adequate preparation and purification of body and mind.
It divides the congregation outside the Sanctuary and the representatives of our Lord and heavenly angels inside the Sanctuary, who stand and worship God. It also signifies the broken body of the crucified Christ. Through His sacrifice, Jesus opened a door to new life (Heb. 10: 20). Thus, it is the door to heaven. When Jesus was crucified, the very thick curtain of the Jerusalem Temple was torn into two from top to bottom. (Matt. 27: 51; Mark 15: 38; Luke 23: 45), thus revealing His divine nature to mankind, similarly the unveiling of the curtain during Holy Qurbana, the God’s throne of grace is made accessible to the faithful.
As Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven on our behalf and became a high priest forever (Heb. 6: 19-20), interceding for us similarly the priest stands on the other side of the veil in the sanctuary and intercedes for the congregation. When the curtain is drawn, priest and the congregation worships together. Thus, the heaven and the earth are joined together in our worship.
Significance of Veiling and Unveiling of the Curtain during Holy Qurbana.
Each unveiling and veiling have different meanings in Holy Qurbana
The opening of the Sanctuary, by drawing aside the Veil, shows that the God’s throne of grace is made accessible to all believers. It also has different meanings depending on the occasion. It is this function of unveiling (revealing) that is more important than veiling.
The closing (veiling) of the Sanctuary or drawing across of the curtain shows the hiddenness of heaven. It also has different meanings depending on the occasion.
The veiling before the public celebration of the service shows the period before the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
The veil is drawn aside (unveiling) at the beginning of the Public Celebration, signifying the incarnation or appearance of the promised Messiah, Christ.
The veiling at the time of fraction, signifies the time of crucifixion of Christ, when the dark clouds hid the Sun, at mid-day and Jesus Christ gave His life on the Cross.
The second unveiling, just before the Lord’s Prayer, signifies the appearance of Jesus Christ to the disciples after His Resurrection.
The veiling before the procession of the Mysteries shows the hiddenness of Christ, after His ascension into heaven. The third unveiling, before the procession of the Holy Mysteries symbolizes the opening of heaven and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The veiling at the end of the Holy Qurbana, marks the end of the Public part of the service.
The Holy Sanctuary always remains veiled at all times, except during certain occasions during Celebrations of Holy Sacraments, Holy Qurbana, Holy Order, etc; Vespers, Intercessory prayers, when a metropolitan visits the Church.